Groundbreaking for New Metro Rail Line

Metro breaks ground on its East End Light Rail Line. It is the first of five projects scheduled for completion in a little over four years. The event drew protestors who live in the area who feel it should be built somewhere else. Pat Hernandez has the story.

The East End Rail Corridor will begin downtown off of the Southeast Rail Line and go east to the Magnolia Transit station. Fanfare for the event included fireworks and protests. Inside a tent on the site of the former Stewart & Stevenson plant on Harrisburg, Metro chairman David Wolff told participants:

“Some of you may realize, some of you may not, that we are meeting on the site of what was one of the largest Stewart & Stevenson plants, where they built the tugs that pulled airplanes out onto the ramps, they built Metro buses. And so, we’re sort of gathering a de facto museum of Houston transit history, and I think it’s only too appropriate that this be where we start this new phase of Metro Rail.”

Longtime East End resident and former Houston City Council Member Felix Fraga thinks the light rail line should have been built a long time ago.

“People on this side of town depend much more on public transportation than I think any other side of town so, this is going to be a blessing for all of us.”

But another East end resident Mario Umanzor thinks the line will serve only a few.

“I think that it should be for everybody and not just for a small group of people that are gonna become richer and the poor people poorer all the time.”

“To the protestors outside, this side of town voted overwhelmingly for Metro rail.”

State senator Mario Gallegos and other elected officials touted the benefits of the project.

“Today is an historic day for the East End community…I’ve traveled all over the world and it always amazes me that we don’t have rail in a city of this size…State Representative Farrar making sure that Houston continues to maintain its lock on Houston being a world class city, you’ve got to do world class things in order for that to happen… Houston’s on the move and the East End is leading the way…We’re gonna build it, we’re gonna build it right, and the people will come…Even if you don’t board the train, you ought to say ‘thank goodness’, because that’s one less car that you’ll be waiting behind at this red light. Thank you and GOD bless.”

The East End line is expected to be in operation by 2012.

Pat Hernandez, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News